Medical Malpractice News

How Medical Liability of Doctors is Affected by Using Social Media

Tags: | Comments: 0 | August 17th, 2011

Social Media Icons on the Screen of an iPhone4

There is no question that most of the American population is a part of at least one social networking site. Social media is a great source for people acquiring news, knowledge, and communities.  However, social media can also hurt the career and personal lives of the people who use it. With literally nothing off limits, how do we know when people are crossing the line between appropriate and inappropriate? This has been a hot topic issue for physicians and surgeons using social media and social networking sites, especially with how it affects their medical liability insurance.

We all post Facebook status updates and tweet about our every event in our daily life, so the question becomes should doctors be able to do the same? The answer for most is no. There is never a time where physicians should be allowed to “tweet” or Facebook about those they treat.

A patient is supposed to have complete trust in their physician, not fear what might be posted about them. No matter if doctors change the name or make an anonymous comment, it is unacceptable. Some argue that this makes doctors more human and easier to connect on a personal level with. However, I know I would never want my physician to post comments about me.

Doctors should also use caution when becoming friends or following their patients over social media. This will expose personal information that could affect the patient’s decision of using their doctor. Doctors might also offend their patients by expressing different viewpoints of politics, religion, etc. Physicians need to remember that using social media becomes a type of permanent record and could affect potential job offers or clients in the future.

Social Media Does Not Always Negatively Affect Physicians

There are proper and useful ways that physicians are using the internet. Telemedicine is one of them and is a growing form of a new convenient way to treat patients. This type of medicine creates more opportunities for physicians and enables them to prescribe prescriptions over secure networks. As a result, medical licensing and telemedicine medical malpractice insurance companies have enforced stricter laws to make sure that they use this professionally. Telemedicine uses technology to accommodate patients that can be treated remotely, has a broader reach, and is less expensive than most hospital visits.

Doctor Updating Social Media Status

Another Great Way for Physicians to Use Social Media is to Educate

Social media can be a great way to educate people with their disorders and also gives them a sense of community. The more we educate people, especially with rare disorders, the more connected they will be. Someone suffering from a condition will suddenly not feel alone. There are many positive sites that give people a community to share their pain, hopefulness, and experience.

By just giving people a place to go to for answers and support can put hope in so many people’s lives. Internet sites such as WebMD can also be a great tool for the public to use, but these sites should always be taken with a grain of salt. They are useful to help distinguish symptoms, but should never be used to treat a condition. Medical journals and ongoing education are moving online. These resources can be used by physicians to help educate them even after training.

Does This Social Media Exposure Need To Be Covered?

This issue of physicians and surgeons posting information about their patients on the internet has grabbed the attention of medical malpractice insurance companies as well as lawyer’s eyes. Medical liability insurance companies are now offering “cyber liability” which covers doctors for the risk associated with the internet, social networks, and electronic records. Cyber Liability is defined as addressing the first and third party risks associated with electronic business, the internet, networks, and informational assets (Insure newmedia.com). Anyone that has access to the internet can now assume all legal liabilities.

The exposures associated with each post on a web site can open up a whole world of liability that might now be obvious to most. Including cyber liability on a medical malpractice insurance policy is now extremely important. Now patient’s information is mostly all electronic, digital records are, at times, easily hacked and easily deleted. This opens up concerning exposure for all physicians and surgeons that use electronic medical records.

Cyber liability endorsements will help protect doctors from this risk that is hard to ignore. Most medical liability insurance companies will cover this exposure. Some companies are even including this endorsement in all of their insured’s policies with no additional premium charge. Physicians should contact their medical malpractice insurance broker to make sure they have this included or to find the best coverage options for cyber liability. Every physician and surgeon should make sure that they have this included in their medical malpractice insurance policy.

Conclusion

The power of the internet and social media is growing more and more everyday, so this issue is not going away. Doctors using social media and the web should seek the positive opportunities and area for rapid growth. Helping to educate and form a sense of community for their patients should be supported. Physicians should always use caution when blogging, using Twitter, or using Facebook. Doctors of any specialty should always make sure that they are covered in all aspects in regards to medical malpractice insurance exposures.